There is no shortage of research confirming the many benefits of mindfulness on our mental and physical well-being. Over the years, studies have found mindfulness to be beneficial for combating stress and reducing rumination and emotional reactivity. Engaging in mindfulness regularly has also been shown to boost immune functioning and enhance relationship satisfaction. While many people have heard about mindfulness, there continues to be widespread misunderstanding about what it truly is- and what it isn’t. This article will dispel some common myths about mindfulness and explore simple steps for incorporating a little more mindfulness into your daily routine.
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3 Common Myths about Mindfulness
Myth 1: Mindfulness is the same as meditation.
While these two terms are often used synonymously, it is important to note that they are, in fact, different. When many people think of mindfulness or meditation, they often picture sitting with legs crossed in complete silence and bringing our mind back to the rhythm of our breath. This isn’t all that meditation or mindfulness is about.
At its core, mindfulness involves observing our thoughts and emotions without judgment. It is intentionally tuning in to the present moment, whether we are on a nature walk or eating our favorite dessert. It is deciding to pay attention to your inner world without countering certain thoughts or assigning them value.
A meditation practice incorporates this type of non-judgmental awareness; however, it involves a sustained focus on something. During meditation, individuals recognize when their attention is drifting away and recenters themselves to the object of focus, whether it is their breath, body sensations, or thoughts. Just like an individual can be mindful of anything, mindfulness meditation can occur in many different settings, not just on the floor of a silent room.
Myth 2: Mindfulness is about ridding your mind of all thoughts.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, as mindfulness does not require us to empty our minds. Instead, it asks us to notice whatever thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations are there, without assigning them as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘right,’ ‘wrong,’ etc. In this way, mindfulness helps to create distance from what goes in our minds and confirms that we are not our thoughts. Just because we have a certain thought does not mean it is true or reflective of what we really desire or value. Mindfulness is helpful, not in that it eliminates the incessant chatter of our minds, but it allows us to take a step back and not become all-consumed by it.
Myth 3: Mindfulness is self-absorbed.
Some individuals may consider mindfulness a self-indulgent activity that encourages turning inward while shutting out the outside world. However, research has revealed that mindfulness can improve our relationships by shifting how we regulate certain emotions (such as anger). Engaging in mindfulness and connecting with our own challenging thoughts and emotions can actually enhance empathy towards others and the desire to help those around us.
Taking the First Step Toward Mindfulness
Now that we have dispelled some common myths about mindfulness, you may be wondering where to start and what practices might help you get in tune with the present moment. There are many ways to practice mindfulness in a variety of settings. A few ideas you might try out to get started include:
- Mindful eating: Turn off distractions while you eat. Slow down and really taste each bite, paying attention to the flavor and texture of your food.
- Walking or driving meditation: Opt to turn off the podcasts and music and instead tune into your surroundings. Take note of what you see, the sensations you experience, and just be present where you are.
- Listening to music: Music can be an excellent way to practice mindfulness. Put on an album and note the sounds you may not have noticed before. What sensations the music evokes in your body, etc.
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